Remembering Dr. Cuthbert Joseph

I first met Dr. Joseph in 2009, thanks to some mutual acquaintances.  It was around the time when the previous administration had issued for public comment a document that proposed certain changes to our constitution.  There was also a series of public consultations on this most important of documents.  I was becoming dissatisfied with the level of public debate, and as someone conscious about issues that would affect our children’s future, I decided to pay closer attention.  In so doing, Dr. Joseph was among the learned minds I had the privilege of consulting.  When I can, I enjoy speaking with great minds on all sides of our political spectrum.

We were not related as he was originally from Siparia and my Joseph side of the family is originally from the hills of Belmont.  In the 1970s, as a child in primary school, I remember hearing his name as a Cabinet Minister and found it curious that we shared the same last name.  In mid-2009, what I thought would be a few brief exchanges on certain specific parts of our constitution evolved into a conversation that saw us spending countless hours on the phone and in-person (both in his office and home in Cascade) discussing this most beautiful of documents.
Federal Tax Singapore

While some believe that the existing T&T Constitution is fine, others believe that it is worth spending time reviewing it.  After all, the local and international environment within which it was created has evolved so much.  While we may have disagreed on certain specific points, we both agreed that there was a need for it to be reviewed, and we enjoyed the public debate it stimulated.  As I remember it, the primary discussion was whether the present construction of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Office of the President still suited our needs; especially given the excessive or potentially conflicting power of the head of state and/or head of government—and whether they should be combined into a single office.  

Additionally, there was the issue of service commissions, Privy Council vs. Caribbean Court of Justice, the issue of Permanent Secretaries and whether elected governments should have greater/less control of the Public Service, the strength/ weakness of Cabinet, should our leader be able to commit to international agreements without parliamentary approval, issues of locality (such as should MPs reside in the area they represent), and even the right of “recall” where dissatisfied constituents can “fire” their MP.

In our time together, Dr. Joseph struck me as someone who so loved our beautiful twin-island Republic that he devoted his life to what he saw as national service.  He agreed that our nation could have progressed much further than it had, but he was still proud of how far we had come since gaining independence from Great Britain.  Dr. Joseph had worked closely with Dr. Eric Williams during his political career and had the deepest admiration for our first Prime Minister. Of course, he was fiercely loyal to his political party of choice – the PNM.  Dr. Joseph spent his life in politics, and as one would expect, he had strong opinions on political structures and culture.  Despite cries to the contrary, he did not doubt that the PNM would use this period in opposition to review its structure and emerge stronger than ever.

Dr. Joseph enjoyed speaking with young people, and I am just one of the many for whom he made time to discuss various topics.  He had a formidable intellect, and he firmly believed in the power of education to discipline and expanded the mind.  I often felt intimidated in our conversations. He always insisted on clear definitions and rigorous research to defend one’s point of view and logical frameworks in articulating a point of view.  Dr. Joseph may have been in his 80s, but his mind was razor-sharp.

Despite his many achievements, Dr. Joseph was an extremely humble man, and I cannot help but think it is a product of his faith.  He was an extremely devout Catholic who enjoyed attending mas.  Many of our conversations ended with – “I need to get ready for mas now…”.  I was saddened that I was off-island when he passed as I would have liked to pay my last respects.  My deepest condolences to the family and friends of this servant of the people.  May his soul rest in peace.

My name is Derren Joseph, and I love my country, and I love my region.  Despite its challenges, I continue to have the audacity of hope in our beloved nation.  We are resilient, and our future is bright.  


Feel free to email me at derren43@yahoo.com

You can reach me as well at derren@advancedamericantax.com.


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